Around 4 years ago I developed an intense fear of flying. Kind of out of the blue. I'm sure I've mentioned it on this blog before, and those close to me already know about this since they get my panic attack text messages from the airport. Since I'm on an island right now, where the only way on and off is by airplane, I figured I should write a post about this fear and what I'm doing to overcome it.
Fears are interesting aren't they? Prior to 4 years ago, I never would say that I loved flying, but I was never terrified of it either (probably because I was able to have a cocktail or 3 and calm my nerves). When I was young I had a big fear of bridges. I remember one summer my family was on vacation in Michigan and we had to drive across the Mackinac bridge, which is about 5 miles. My mom bought me a stress ball to squeeze because she knew I was going to flip out. I unbuckled my seat belt and crouched in a ball on the floor squeezing my stress ball to death. My brothers just laughed as I fell into the numbness of being afraid. This fear stayed with me for quite some time, and I still have moments of panic when I'm crossing the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, but for the most part I am fine. It just went away.
The fear of flying starts as soon as I book my flight. I instantly get a knot in my stomach and I'm mildly stressed from that moment until the moment I land. It really sucks. There's no other way to word it. Flying is a part of almost everyone's world these days, there's no getting around it. I am still amazed and appreciative of the fact that I can wake up in California and then by afternoon be on a beach in Hawaii. Here is why I am working hard to get over this fear: I have zero family in California and need to see them more often. I want to see the world. I want to live my life without being weighed down by fear. And also, it's beyond my control. Pretty simple.
I almost prefer to fly alone because I have noticed that my energy affects the one I'm flying with (which most of the time is Cat). With that said, Cat is a trooper when it comes to my anxiety. My meltdowns usually start before boarding a plane. I sit at the gate area and then suddenly without warning, I'm having my version of a panic attack. I've cried at the gate of almost every flight for the past 4 years. I'm not in hysterics or anything, just a little misty eyed and have shortness of breath. It's not embarrassing at all (except it's completely embarrassing). Cat usually gets us some snacks, a crossword puzzle, and then I am distracted for a moment and can start to calm down. I have taken anti-anxiety pills, but my adrenaline just overtakes them and I feel no different. I have contemplated hypnosis, I do my best to meditate. Nothing seems to really work. I usually text 3-4 of my friends all of which do their best to help calm me down (this is helpful, thanks guys.), and then finally once we are at cruising altitude I'm calm at 35,000 feet. Last November I made friends with a flight attendant after I almost jumped out of my seat and ran to him on takeoff (Kristen Wiig style in Bridesmaids). I had the row all to myself, I was in a ball, I stopped him and said "Are we going down? Is this normal?" and he said "oh sweetie, we are just fine. Are you afraid of flying?" Yes. Yes I am.
Ok. So here are Aja Blue's tips to getting over the fear of flying (more like the fear of crashing):
• Fly more. This year I've had to fly about every 3 months, which is actually helpful because every flight is easier and less scary. I know that's still not very often compared to what some people do, but for me it's just enough time in between to not be so full of anxiety for my next flight.
• Talk to people who like to fly. I find comfort in the fact that some people choose this as a career. I have plenty of friends who actually enjoy flying. I was talking to the oldest girl of the family I work for, and she told me she took over 40 flights in the 10 months she was traveling. Huh?! 40?! I picked her brain with questions like "Why weren't you afraid? Did you have any scary moments? How were the landings?" and she did a wonderful job at making me not feel insane for being afraid of something she's completely comfortable with.
• Binaural beats. Jenni told me to download an app and listen to these to help calm down. I do it with every flight now and it's helped. In fact, I didn't cry at my gate for this last flight. I listened to them at the gate, as well as during takeoff and I never felt so calm on a flight. Thanks Jen.
• Pray. I pray every day, not just when I'm afraid. I enjoy feeling and having a spiritual connection in this life. There is a comfort I find in just asking for some peace and calm.
• Watch a movie that will provide laughs from the gut. On the flight to Hawaii I watched "Tammy" with Melissa McCarthy. It's movies like these that help me forget that I'm hanging in the sky over an ocean. I let out a few loud cackles watching this movie.
• Take a bathroom selfie. I have made it a tradition to take a selfie in the airplane bathroom on every flight and then send it to my best friend once I land. I don't know why I do this, but it makes me laugh and it also gives me something to do as a mind distraction. I always look hideous in the photos, and i think that adds to why I love doing it. However, this past flight the lock got jammed and I was stuck in there for a minute and that's when I stopped laughing. I have a knack for getting locked in bathrooms.
• Let it go (I can't type that without hearing the song from Frozen). The bottom line is that this is really out of my control. If I want to do all the things I dream of, see my family and friends that don't live within a short driving distance, enjoy all the beauty this world has to offer, well then, I need to get on an airplane. My goal is to be able to book a flight and not worry, not feel anxiety for weeks before, not have a series of "what if's" flow through my mind and scare me to death. I want to be able to sit in my seat and be asleep snoring before we even takeoff, like the lady did sitting next to me on my flight to O'ahu. I was SO jealous that she was in a deep slumber before we even took flight. One of these days that will be me.